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More Than One-Third Of Claims For Gig Workers, Self-Employed Unpaid [Video]

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Hundreds of thousands of Illinois’ gig workers, contractors, or self-employed workers have applied for jobless benefits due to COVID-19. And for months, we’re been hearing horror stories from applicants who say they haven’t seen a dime. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports.

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Workers

The Gig Economy Causing Overwork-Related Health Issues

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The gig economy is all about hard, low-cost work. The stress that gig workers live with sucks energy from them. The nature of their flexible, remote work excludes benefits such as health insurance, so they will have to take stock and work more realistically to avoid burnout.

Let Kilimanjaro help to restore your calm

Gig workers don’t have the luxury of succumbing to their overwork-related health issues. If they don’t work, there’s nobody to step in for them and bring in the bucks. It is nonetheless crucial to find a way to relax.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, a premier Kilimanjaro trekking tour company, makes it possible to get back to simple things such as breathing in the fresh air and being out in nature. They specialize in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro along with highly skilled mountain guides.

By deciding to climb Kilimanjaro, you take the first step in the right direction as you need inspiration, peace and the positive emotions in your life. And you achieve all of that experience on a Kilimanjaro hiking trip as it will fight the mental anguish, anxiety, and emotional conditions you’ve been experiencing because of overwork.

Managing time better

Say what you like, the way you choose to work is a lifestyle choice. Every gig worker knows that every minute counts, but overwork can make you ill so that you can’t work at all.

Incorrect eating habits from burning the candle at both ends and lack of sleep can increase your chance of developing any of the fat conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. Many gig workers battle to manage their time but poor time management and its consequences can become a major source of stress and illness.

Exposure to electromagnetic fields

Independent contractors, gig workers, freelancers – whatever you call them – many of them work on computers all day. Computers, mobile devices, and power lines all generate electromagnetic fields.

Add to that the high-stress levels of modern living with covid-19, downing a rushed, nutrient-depleted meal, and many gig workers are working themselves into premature aging and an early grave. According to some scientists, EMFs can bring on headaches, sleep disturbances and affect your body’s nervous system function.

You can’t just stop working on your computer but you can start looking at having less to do with your microwave, cell phone, and computer to reduce EMF exposure.

Back pain

Everyone who sits hour after hour can experience back pain. Becoming more active can certainly be a solution for back pain, but how are you sitting?

Poor posture can lead to back pain if you don’t have an ergonomic chair. A doctor can recommend ice or heat treatment and massage, but as a gig worker, you will have to find ways to take more breaks during the day and to get in some gentle exercise to ease the pain.

There is nothing wrong with hard work but overwork can lead to health issues and discomfort and you don’t want to have to stop work altogether because you ignored the cries of help from your body.

Essential nutrients

Health isn’t something ready-made and there is a lot you can do to improve your health. There is also a lot you can do to damage your health. It’s not always easy for busy people with deadlines to take a break for lunch or supper.

Fortunately, there are liquid meal replacements for those who need to fuel up on something substantial. These liquid meals aren’t meant to permanently replace a healthy meal but can be a useful temporary solution for the gig workaholic looking to make some changes to their lifestyle.

The drinks are filling and with healthy ingredients to ensure the overworked gig person gets in the right nutrients for life on the go.



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New York based Earned Wage Fintech Clair Secures $15M to Help Gig Economy Workers

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New York-based Clair, an earned wage firm for gig economy workers and technology contractors, has finalized a $15 million Series A round that was led by Thrive Capital.

Clair’s latest investment round brings the Fintech firm’s total funding to $19.5 million. The company’s seed round was carried out 7 months ago and was led by Upfront Ventures.

Clair allows HR technology and gig firms to provide hourly workers free instant cash advances on their earnings. The company has currently entered partnerships with platforms used by more than 1.5 million hourly and gig workers.

Clair’s CEO Nico Simko stated:

“We’re on a mission to give workers easier, faster access to their hard-earned cash. We want to promote financial inclusivity for everyone, and we are doing this by enabling existing HR tech providers through innovative fintech tools. This fundraising round gives us the runway we’ll need to expand our operations and realise that vision on a larger scale.”

The Clair team notes that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans had already been dependent on payday loans to “bridge the gap between expenses and paydays.” In 2019, there were around 12 million US residents that were using them, the Clair team revealed.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau reported that half or 50% of these people were “paying $185 in fees on top of exorbitant interest rates.” As noted by Clair, for many people, that’s the “equivalent of over 20 hours of work before taxes.”

Clair also mentions that payday loans charge as much as 20x the interest rates of credit cards and personal loans, however, the people using them do so “because they can’t qualify for anything else.” An individual who borrows $500 a year will “pay back almost $2,000 in fees and interest,” the company reveals.

Clair’s management also noted:

“This is the time to transform the way we pay our employees and, by extension, eliminate some of the predatory businesses out there trapping people in a cycle of debt for life. You may not be able to give your employees more hours right now, but you can give them the confidence of knowing you have their back in this difficult time.”



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The Pandemic Has Intensified the Fight Over Gig Workers

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Phillip Oshinsky began working for DoorDash during the summer of the pandemic in Tenafly, New Jersey. An immunocompromised person, Oshinsky had just left his job as a waiter because restaurants posed too high a COVID risk. The app-based delivery service allows customers to order food from local restaurants on their phone and either pick it up themselves, or pay to have “dashers” deliver the meals to their door.

After a few months, Oshinksy began to notice that a lot of friends and people in his community had also signed up to be dashers, making deliveries more competitive and forcing him to spend more time working to make the same amount of money. “The first couple of months were amazing,” Oshinsky says. “Then I started to notice that I wasn’t getting deliveries as often as I used to.”

Now a resident of New Paltz, Oshinsky has also dashed in the Hudson Valley, mainly delivering in New Paltz and Poughkeepsie. As a town bustling with small restaurants and college students eager to make money around hectic class schedules, New Paltz has become an epicenter for DoorDash.

“Your time. Your goals. You’re the boss” is the promise DoorDash offers to workers. The app seems appealing because its flexible hours allow people to earn money when they choose. In 2019, about 36 percent of the US workforce was made up of gig workers who work for apps like DoorDash or do other forms of freelance work. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a surge in gig labor as people have lost employment or job security and can’t always rely on an organization to make a living.

Gig work seems promising during an uncertain time. But labor-rights advocates across the nation, including in the Hudson Valley, say working for companies like DoorDash has major pitfalls that could be ameliorated by regulations and policy changes. Since gig workers aren’t legally defined as employees and thus have no employee rights, gig labor has a laissez-faire element: work can be inconsistent and workers don’t receive employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, sick days, or job security. There is no set wage or overtime pay. Dashers can make as little as $2 per delivery if the customer doesn’t tip. Plus, car and gas expenses come out of the dasher’s wallet. The lack of benefits and stability convinced Oshinsky that making $16 to $17 an hour dashing is not a sustainable job for people with dependents.

“I don’t really think that anyone that has a family should expect DoorDash to be a lucrative thing other than it just being a side gig,” he says. “I’m only looking after myself. I’m fine with racking up those costs.”

The Debate Around Gig Work

Charles Torres Iglesias has been a dasher for two years, delivering in White Plains. Torres Iglesias started to rely more heavily on the app after losing his job as a substitute teacher when schools closed in March 2020. Though he was rehired as a teacher in May, he still uses DoorDash on the side to make extra money. Torres Iglesias says that his “independent contractor” status with DoorDash gave him problems with his taxes.

“They are employing us and providing us a job, but we are utilizing our own vehicles and paying for our own insurance with no other benefits on the side,” he says. “In the end, we will have to pay a high tax on our earnings.”

DoorDash driverCredit: Courtesy of Charles Torres Iglesias
Charles Torres Iglesias began relying more heavily on DoorDash after his teaching job last year.

Most workers on gig-based apps are classified as independent contractors and can’t unionize. But labor-rights advocates say that the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 (PRO Act) is a step in the right direction. The PRO Act, passed by the House of Representatives on March 9, would revise the definitions of an employee, supervisor, and employer to broaden the scope of workers under the fair labor standard; would allow labor organizations to support the participation of union members in strikes organized by employees represented by a different labor organization, or secondary strikes; and would ban employers from bringing claims against unions for participating in secondary strikes.

What this means for gig workers is that they would be granted the right to organize. To become a law, the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be approved by President Joe Biden. 

Sandra Oxford of the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation—an organization that represents 113,000 unions across Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and Ulster counties—says the PRO Act is important for gig workers because union contracts would ensure workers have certain rights and benefits. That could provide relief if a gig worker, say, has an accident while making deliveries or gets hurt on the job. Oxford says that companies like DoorDash can get away with not giving their workers rights because they’ll never run out of people looking for some extra cash—often using the promise of flexible hours to appeal to busy college students.

“[Companies are] just churning through these workers,” Oxford says. “There is nonstop availability in college kids. I always call it the needy talking to the greedy.”

Workers’ rights and the reclassification of gig laborers have been debated in recent years outside this country. DoorDash currently operates in Canada and Australia in addition to the US; all three countries define gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

But on February 23, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) announced the launch of the Gig Workers United campaign to organize gig workers for “better conditions and rights.” The campaign came a year after the Ontario Labour Relations Board decided to allow Foodora couriers to unionize. Foodora, a delivery service used outside the US, then ceased operations in Canada, resulting in complaints filed by the CUPW saying that the company shut down because the Canadian Foodora workers could now organize. The CUPW’s complaints got former Foodora couriers across Canada a $3.46 million settlement in 2020.

In the US, the fight for workers’ rights, livable wages, and safety precautions has made more halting progress. In September 2019, a major component of California’s Assembly Bill 5, the “ABC” test, was passed. The test broadens the qualifications and considers all workers employees rather than independent contractors unless the worker is free from control of the company in regards to work performance, the worker performs work outside of the company’s business, and the worker is engaged in established trade, job, or business in the same nature as the company. Under the ABC test, Oshinsky, who works four hours a day making 16 to 20 deliveries, would be considered a DoorDash employee.

But in November 2020, 59 percent of California voters passed Proposition 22, a law backed by gig-companies to undermine the AB5 law. Prop 22 allows these companies to continue to classify their workers as independent contractors.

“Californians sided with drivers, recognizing the importance of flexible work and the critical need to extend new benefits and protections to drivers like Dashers,” said DoorDash CEO Tony Xu in a statement to FOX Business after the passage of Prop 22.

Contractor or Employee?

One of the main arguments against redefining gig work is that it would impact the flexible nature of the job. 

Oxford says that a flexible schedule shouldn’t be a trade-off for workers’ rights. Without unions, Oxford says gig workers are vulnerable to exploitation like tip theft and unjust firing practices that flexible hours don’t make up for. 

“The fact that we’re talking about technology and flexible hours, that should not justify any lower standard for workers,” Oxford says. “That’s no excuse. In this modernized world, we should be able to figure out a way that the flexibility of scheduling doesn’t mean that you have to lower the standard.”

The New York chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has been pushing for more recognition for people like Oshinsky to earn equal worker rights since 2018. It supports the PRO Act. “It is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression,” says New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.

Oshinsky says that at times, working for DoorDash feels like a game instead of a job, one that workers need to learn how to play to benefit from the labor. For example, he says, dashers need to learn to not accept $3 deliveries, prioritize deliveries from restaurants that make food quickly, and accept orders from wealthier areas.

How much money dashers earn per delivery is more dependent on where they work rather than the work they do. Oshinsky has been a dasher in New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, and Tenafly. When he delivered in New Paltz and Poughkeepsie, he made about $15 an hour. In New Jersey, he clears $20 easily.

The discrepancy is in the tip. Oshinsky says he makes less in the Hudson Valley because New Paltz is full of college students who want to eat on a budget and residents in Poughkeepsie, which has higher rates of poverty, are less likely to tip. In New Jersey, meanwhile, he delivers to upper-middle-class families who can afford to tip well.

The COVID-19 Gig Economy

Although the conversation surrounding gig workers has been ongoing for years, the pandemic has laid bare the tenuous nature of gig labor.

“The pandemic has certainly exacerbated all of these issues and so much has fallen on the shoulders of the gig workers,” Oxford says. “These are the people who showed up every day and many of these companies are doing very well. Quite a few have flourished in this pandemic as a result of the sweat, tears, and labor of these gig workers.”

While many forms of gig labor suffered last year—most notably Uber and Lyft drivers and in-home services on apps like TaskRabbit—food delivery boomed as restaurants increasingly relied on it to make ends meet. Marketwatch reports that four of the leading delivery apps—DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates—raked in more than $5.5 billion from April through September last year, more than double the previous year’s haul. DoorDash alone reported 543 million total orders for the first nine months of the year, a threefold increase over the same period in 2019.

Oshinsky has temporarily stopped using DoorDash because it was “mentally exhausting” working without coworkers, but Torres Iglesias continues to use the app. Oshinsky is hesitant about policy changes around gig work because he feels like the company will be able to get around new provisions for worker rights. Torres Iglesias, on the other hand, hopes that changes could be made to make the job more accommodating for dashers.

“If the company wants to continue keeping us in their system,” he says, “they should provide us with extra incentives to continue the work and guarantee us insurance and job security to make us feel safe and welcome to continue working.”

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